Steve Flores column mug

Californian community columnist Steve Flores.

She could easily have been mistaken for Bea Arthur from the "Golden Girls" television series. She appeared to be in her early 70s. She was walking alone and leaving the event as fast as her cane would allow her.

It was late Saturday morning at the 5th annual Cancer Run/Walk and Festival at Yokuts Park. The purpose of the event was to raise cancer awareness and funds to assist local cancer patients.

My job that morning was to drive a courtesy golf cart helping attendees to and from their cars. Event organizers estimated over 1,000 people attended the festival so there were plenty of guests for me, my son Aaron and my sister Espie, who each also drove golf carts, to help that Saturday morning.

As “Bea” sat in my golf cart, she seemed nervous, excited and jittery. I asked her if she was OK. “Oh yes,” she explained with bated breath. “I just received a call that my granddaughter is about to have her first baby. I hate to leave but grandma duty calls,” she exclaimed. 

I asked her if I could give her a ride to the hospital. She slowly turned her head, lowered her glasses, looked at me with an angelic smile and said, “That would be very nice. You’ll drive me to Santa Monica?”

I explained that I sincerely wished I could. I wished her and her growing family well as I dropped her off at her vehicle.

There were five of them. A husband and wife with a young boy about 7 years old and two young man in their early 20s. As I slowed to picked them up, the first thing I noticed was their language. I am fairly good at picking out dialects but this one stumped me. As they sat in my golf cart, the father, with a thick accent said, “Thank you and good morning.”

I thanked them for coming and asked what was bringing them to the day's event. He explained that they were vacationing from Israel. They picked up their son and his friend, who are both studying at USC, and were taking them all to Yosemite National Park. They had randomly picked Yokuts Park off their map and decided to have a picnic before heading further north.

After I explained why there were so many people at the park and the purpose of the event, he shared how he had just lost his mother to cancer. Serendipity, synchronicity or divine intervention? You decide.

He was a robust man in personality and size. He was with a large group of what looked to be family members of all ages. I would guess him to be in his late 60s. He leaned onto his walking cane as he waved me down.

As the man got into my golf cart, I noticed a picture pinned to his team t-shirt. At a quick glance the girl with a radiant and beautiful smile looked to be in her early 20s. I quickly felt his large and friendly persona as we discussed the perfect weather, the large and diverse crowd and the importance of the event. As we were nearing his car, as I did with most attendees, I casually asked him what brought him to the festival.

He paused and by the look on his face, I immediately regretted asking him that question. His large frame and personality seemed to wither away right before my eyes. He gripped his cane with one hand as if to give him emotional strength and pointed to the picture pinned to his chest with the other hand. He slowly stepped out of the golf cart and tried his best to say, “My granddaughter” but all he could say was “My grandda… .” His voice drifted off as he tried to hide the tears coming down his cheeks.

He mouthed “Thank you.” As I drove off, and without him saying more than “My Grandda…” I completely felt his reason for attending and why this event, and ones like it, are so important to so many people.

Thank you to “Bea,” the family from Israel and the robust grandfather. You all, and many others I met that day, were an unexpected gift to me.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at floressteve32@yahoo.com. His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.

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